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The Anthropology of Art and Material Culture


This course can be followed as part of the BA specialisation “Media and Culture”.
(onderdeel BA Culturele Antropologie en Ontwikkelingssociologie)

Admission requirements

Only the following categories of students can register for this course:

  • Students enrolled for the BA programme “Culturele antropologie en ontwikkelingssociologie” at Leiden University who have passed the Propedeuse

  • Studenten die deelnemen aan het Keuzepakket Musea, Erfgoed en collecties

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students

Please see below a description of the registration procedure.


The course ‘Anthropology of Art and Material Culture’ introduces the student in the ways anthropologists have dealt with art, in particular the material expressions of art, and material culture. After a general introduction on how western philosophy has dealt with the material world, a historical overview will be given of anthropological studies about material objects. Ending with a critical analysis of the recent discussions on materiality. Then some special subjects will be presented, varying from a structuralist analysis of material culture to practice-oriented approaches, from rituals in New Guinea to shopping centres in Jakarta. The tutorials will concentrate on collecting and museums. Students are expected to finalised the course with a written paper.


  • Lectures: Wednesdays 11-13 h, between February 2 to May 25, 2011 (starting date wil be announced);
    room 5A41, Pieter de la Court Building (Faculty of Social Sciences)

  • Exam: June 1st, 10-13 h, rooom SA41, Pieter de la Court Building

  • Retake: June 29th, 10-13 h, room 1A11, Pieter de la Court Building

Mode of instruction

Total 10 ECTS = 280 study hours (sbu)

  • lectures 12 × 2 hours (36 sbu)

  • tutorials 2 × 2 h (4 sbu)

  • 2 visits to museums = practicums (22 sbu)

  • literature ca. 1000 pages (170 sbu)

  • paper 6 pages = 3600 words (48 sbu)

Assesment method

  • Written exam about literature and lectures

  • Paper

  • Presence at lectures, tutorials and practicums is obligatory!

Reading list

  • The Material Culture Reader – ed. Victor Buchli, Berg Publishers, Oxford, New York 2002.

  • The Social Life of Things – Arjun Appadurai, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986 (or the reprint).

  • Condensed Reality, A study of Material Culture – Pieter ter Keurs, CNWS Publications, Leiden, 2006. (now Leiden University Press)

  • Some articles related to the subjects treated in the tutorials.


  • Studenten CA-OS: inschrijving mogelijk via het secretariaat CA-OS, kamer 3A19, tel. 5273469, e-mail:, tussen 1 december 2010 en 15 januari 2011.

  • Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply for the exchange programme

Contact Infromation

Prof. dr. Pieter ter Keurs, head of the Collections Department of the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden)